RIP: Surf Environmentalist, Olympic Gold Medalist, SIMA Executive Director, Business Icon Terry McCann Passes Away

Former President of the Surfrider Board of Directors and former SIMA Executive Director Terry McCann passed away early this Wednesday from complications associated with malignant mesothelioma, a variety of lung cancer tied to exposure to asbestos. McCann had been battling the disease since being diagnosed in May of 2005.

Born and raised in Chicago, McCann was a gold-medal winner in the freestyle wrestling division during the 1960 Olympic games in Rome. Afterwards, he moved to California during the early 1970s and took up surfing. As a surfer, he applied the same athletic tenacity that earned Olympic gold to his efforts in the water, and quickly became engrossed in both the lifestyle and the sport. A regular fixture at San Onofre, McCann became an excellent longboarder who was constantly patrolling the lineup for waves. "He didn't socialize much out in the water," recalls Sean Smith, current executive director of SIMA. "He was into catching as many waves as he could out there."

In 1993, McCann ran for a position on the Surfrider Board of Directors, and after being elected he was placed in the role of president. McCann retained this position until 1997, and during that time made crucial changes to the organization, which allowed for growth, financial stability and increased public awareness. In 2001 McCann took a position at SIMA as executive director, and began to grow and streamline that organization as well. On Father's Day of 2004, he began to suffer chest pain and was eventually diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma in 2005. McCann's illness was eventually tied directly to asbestos exposure from working in an oil refinery during the 1950s. He was employed there to support himself while training for the Olympics.

McCann passed away on June 7, 2006, at approximately 3:30 a.m. at the age of 73. He leaves behind Lucille, his wife of 52 years, seven children, 18 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

"For those who've been touched by Terry this is a huge loss," says Smith. "He lived to help make people better versions of themselves. He'll be missed by many as both a friend and a mentor."